The High Court in Polokwane has ruled against the Limpopo Education Department in a matter involving Makangwane High School in Senwabarwana whose classrooms have been declared unsafe.

The School Governing Body went to court after learners spent three months attending under trees in 2018. The department has been accused of ignoring the situation for more than a decade.

The SABC first reported on the plight of Makangwane high school learners in June 2018. At the time learners had been attending under trees for three months due to the bad state of their classrooms.

A legal battle between the School Governing Body and the Education department was also unfolding in the High Court in Polokwane.

The department was then ordered to deliver five mobile classrooms and furniture before the start of the third term, and this was done. There was also an order for a permanent solution to be found by 30 September 2018, which could be either renovating the school or a merger with another school.

However, the deadline was not met. The court has now found that the department’s failure to provide a safe learning environment was unlawful and unconstitutional.

Rights organisation Section 27’s Shaniece Linderboom, which represents the school, says that they approached the court because of the department’s failure to address the safety conditions at the school.

“We went to court to argue for the outstanding issue, which was basically relating to the declaratory order. Judge Semenya basically confirmed that the department’s failure for more than a decade to take swift and appropriate action to address the unsafe conditions at the school and to provide adequate infrastructure was unconstitutional and unlawful. We going to be monitoring the original court order which was granted in June, which also did speak to meaningful engagements about a permanent solution.”

The department wants to merge Makangwane with another school which is 13km away. Parents are against this move and demand new structures. The court has ordered that proper procedure be followed should there be a merger.

SGB chairperson Jazz Ngoepe says they want what is best for their children.

“I’m happy that the court ruled in our favour and I’m pleading with the department to build us a school. They are only telling us about plans to take our children to Driekoppies, which is very far. Our roads are in a bad condition and I don’t think their transport will be sustainable in the long run. Our children are currently attending in mobile classrooms. We feel going to court has been beneficial for us because our kids would still be in dilapidated structures.”

Spokesperson for the department Sam Makondo says they are still studying the judgement.

“Yes, we have since noted the judgement and as a department we are at this stage of finalising studying it. It is the only way to understand what is contained in the judgement and whatever we do from here should be informed by that understanding. But in the main, whatever we going to do will be putting, you know, the interest of learners first.”

Section 27 says the judgement is victory for the learners, who deserve safe and decent school infrastructure. The organisation adds that the department has already issued a notice for a merger and hopes proper consultation processes will be followed.